Science Museum Oklahoma is getting a face-lift.
Museum officials are planning an expansion that will include a new children's hall, a new lobby and a new main entrance.
The expansion will be funded through a $12 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. Museum officials said they expect the project to be complete in 2015.
Don Otto, the museum's executive director, said the children's hall will be a museum within a museum — at 21,000 square feet, it will rival most free-standing children's museums in the country, he said.
The hall will be geared toward children ages 3-6, he said, but it will include activities that will interest older children, as well as their parents.
It will be designed as a community, where homes, businesses and other areas will show certain aspects of science, Otto said. That format creates an environment that would feel familiar to younger children but still would be unlike anything they've seen.
Museum officials are discussing what might be included in the community. The community will take some historical license with its figures, Otto said, bringing together scientists who lived centuries apart.
“So you may have Isaac Newton living next to Einstein,” he said.
The hall will feature one or two scientific figures in each of the areas. Those scientists would typify the scientific principles that are on display in those areas, either through their fields of study or how they went about their work, he said.
For example, inventor Thomas Edison could be included in the so-called tinkering gallery, Otto said. The gallery will be an area filled with building materials that children are encouraged to use to build structures or anything else they can imagine. Edison is a good fit for the gallery, Otto said, because it resembles the way he worked.
“Edison was a tinkerer,” Otto said.
State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said the expanded museum will build interest in science- and math-related fields among young children. That's a goal the state Education Department is pursuing, as well, she said.
Barresi said she expects the museum will capture students' imaginations and help them use their creative skills.
“It will engage our children at a very early age,” she said. “Those are just the very things that this state needs.”
Along with the addition of the children's hall, museum officials plan to overhaul the way visitors enter and leave the museum. The problem, Otto said, is that the current entrance is more than 500 feet from the area where the children's hall will be located.
“We didn't believe it was right to ask families with young children, particularly, to travel two football fields' length to get to this exhibit,” he said.
As a part of the new plan, the main entrance and lobby will be moved to the west end of the building. Museum officials hired Oklahoma City architect Rand Elliott to design the lobby and revamp the building's exterior.
Replacing the building's current exterior, which Otto described as “concrete motif,” will be an off-white wall that incorporates colored light features. The building's new entrance canopy will be made from colored glass, he said.
Officials are considering incorporating dichroic glass into the new vestibule, Otto said. Dichroic is a type of layered glass that casts different colors of light, depending on where the viewer stands. The planned exterior is meant to reflect the lively, creative atmosphere inside the building, Otto said.